By BENJAMIN ROMAN
What to do on a brisk November day in New York City? Go surfing, of course! The Atlantic coast of Long Island is home to some great surf spots like Long Beach Island, only a short ride from the bustle of Manhattan. Bring a wetsuit though, since the chilly water and whipping winds can make things a little, well, refreshing.
The upgraded Hoplite 4/3/2mm fullsuit is the workhorse of the Matuse wetsuit line. It’s constructed of ultra-stretchy “Yamamoto Geoprene” rubber, which is produced from limestone as opposed to standard neoprene from petroleum byproducts. Potential environmental advantages aside, the Geoprene foam boasts a higher closed-cell ratio than regular neoprene. This means more insulation with less waterlogging.
Pulling on the Hoplite wetsuit takes a little patience. It has a fit that’s even more snug than other comparable suits. But as I dove in to the fifty-something-degree Atlantic water, my first impression of the suit was a pleasant surprise — virtually no trickle of cold water down my back. This is thanks to the company’s “flood gate” bib system, which is built into the torso of the suit. The seamless neck seal, which has a slightly lower cut, was also much more comfortable than other wetsuits I’ve worn.
The sleek fit is especially appreciable in the water, and the suit’s ergonomically-shaped panels of flexible Geoprene allow excellent range of motion while paddling. Smart placement of the thicker 4mm layers means the Hoplite maintains an unobtrusive, streamlined feel. In fact, it wears much more like a thin tropical suit than a cold-water steamer.
The Geoprene Hoplite felt substantially warmer than other similar-weight neoprene wetsuits I have tried. When my face and hands were cold enough to call it a day, my body remained toasty. Warmth and comfort are enhanced by the glued, blind-stitched, and taped seams, which ensure no leaky stitch holes and no chafing.
Instead of standard nylon cloth coating, the Matuse suit features a “Hydrasilk” finish. It’s smooth to the touch and it won’t snag every Velcro tab in sight. More importantly, it did a great job blocking a stiff 45-degree breeze when I was sitting up out of the water waiting for a wave.
The suit glides beautifully through the water, too. I discovered this when we finished up our session with a little bodysurfing. Just ask that seal who was jealously watching me from the beach.
The Hoplite’s unrestrictive fit and wind-blocking abilities could make it a great option for cold-water rafting and boating as well as surfing. The price tag may be its only drawback — it’s roughly $100 more expensive than some other high-end competitors. But the Hoplite is a performance wetsuit that still delivers solid bang for the buck. Based on the design details and the quality of the materials, I’d also expect above-average durability from the suit.
The bottom line: The Matuse Hoplite blends functional design and top-notch materials, delivering a wetsuit that’s both warm and surprisingly comfortable. ($489, www.matuse.com)
—Contributor Benjamin Roman is a writer and design consultant from Venice, Calif.